Eating to Live on the Outside: P.F. Chang's

At long last, Friday has returned! And that means its time to take another look at "Eating to Live on the Outside." Over the past few weeks DiseaseProof has taken on menus from Friday's, IHOP, and Chipotle, this week we take a look at P.F. Chang's China Bistro.

By now you all know the drill. You're on the Eat to Live plan, but your buddies aren't. One night you're all hanging out, someone suggests getting a bite to eat, and before you can say "cruciferous" a waitress is awaiting your order. Holy broccolini! What do you do?

Well fear not, because if you've landed at P.F. Chang's you'll walk away from dinner feeling pretty good about yourself. The menu shows a lot of promise, not bad for a restaurant I didn't even know existed. I honestly thought P.F. Chang was a pro-wrestler.

Now this doesn't do you a lot of good if you're already at the restaurant, but if you can plan ahead of time, check out the menu online. Next to every dish they actually have the nutrition information listed, pretty cool huh? Definitely a sign of a progressive dining establishment, I wonder if hardcopies of the menu list this info too. Anyone know?

Okay, so you've got a lot of options here. I'll point out some that look delicious to me, but no doubt you'll see plenty more. So scream and holler in the comments if you find something else.

The first menu item to jump up at me was Harvest Spring Rolls. They've got some pretty hearty vegetables in them: bamboo shoot strips, black mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, and celery. The sauces, salt, and sesame oil make them a little suspect, but not too bad. An even better choice might be the Steamed Vegetable Dumplings. The tofu, bamboo shoot strips, bean thread noodle, black mushrooms, cabbage, ginger, green onions, Mi Chiu rice wine, and red bell pepper sound pretty tasty. Given the breadth of vegetables in these two selections, you're bound to ingest some nutrients.

The Ginger Chicken and Broccoli really caught my eye. Check out the picture, there's a mound of broccoli there, and broccoli is a real nutritional heavy weight. I like the Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Steamed with Ginger too. Steaming is an oil-free way to cook and you get a nice dose of green vegetables with the bok choy and the asparagus. If you're looking for greens Buddha's Feast Steamed is also a solid choice.

If it were me, I'd also consider P.F. Chang's Fried Rice Vegetable or Chicken. I'd order either with brown rice, although you're making a huge concession by going with something fried, but you'd be hard-pressed not to find something with oil on this menu. If you're totally oil adverse I'd pick a dish that isn't fried (like the Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu) and ask the waiter to hold the oil they use for seasoning.

Overall you've got a lot of options at P.F. Chang's. It isn't perfect, but you've got a fighting chance. Unlike a trip to McDonalds or Burger King that'll knock you out in the first round with a rabbit punches of cholesterol and the refined wheat and sugar pile-driver.

As always we want to hear about how you handle eating away from home. Any tips? Check out the P.F. Chang's menu and Email us at or leave a comment. How do you Eat to Live on the outside?

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Sam Pedroza - June 2, 2006 11:43 PM

We try to stay as vegan as possible but we enjoy PF Changs (also a work favorite).

Appetizers: We normally go with the vegetarian lettuce wraps and the steamed dumplings. The spring rolls are a little disappointing because they are more like deep-fried egg-rolls with enough oil to lubricate my 3 bikes. When ordering these I was expecting more of a rice-paper-rolled spring roll filled with rice noodles and an array of vegetables (sometimes even a shrimp or two). So the dumplings and wraps are pretty much it.

Entre: I usually go for the Ma Po tofu and ask them for less tofu and more brocolli. The tofu is a bit spicy (my tastes have gravitated towards less spicing) and too much upsets my system. My wife requested a bowl just filled with brocolli to have along with other ordered entres and they were very accomodating. She really enjoys the Shanghai cucumbers but I don't trust restaurant soy (MSG) from just about anywhere. I prefer no headache for the next 24hrs but I think their soy sauce may be ok (haven't wanted to test it in a long time). I enjoyed the coconut-curry vegetables but prefer to split large, heavily-sauced dishes with someone. We both like the Buddha's feast but it is a little plain so enjoy it with favorite dish. I may try the vegetable chow fun next time.

That's about it since I tend to avoid anything that says 'fried' on the menu. When work is paying, I usually order a few Auntie Chang's Frappe (or something like that) which is a very nice frozen fruit smoothie!

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